Return of The Sweet Ride

I have an idea about a movie that will exploit the series Trust. My friend, Jeff Pasternak’s father produced ‘The Sweet Ride’ co-starring Bob Denver from Gilligan’s Island. Michael Wilding plays Mr. Cartwright. His son married Aileen Getty. He is in my family tree because he married Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor.

Jeff tried to get The Doors in his Dad’s Hippie Flic, which describes ‘Trust’ – for me! Of course I am on the side of the Hippie Son, even though I am clean and sober. There is a whole generation that doesn’t have a clue what is going on in ‘Trust’. Why is the dude with stars on his shirt treated like shit? What did he do? Well, look at this trailer.

There is a Woodie in this film. I am going to base a character on Tom Snyder. Tomas von Franz will be a amateur psychiatrist from Berlin who drives a Winnebago up and down the coast giving Hippie and Surfer chics, rides. He offers to fix them – for free. He has a purple velvet antique couch in his trailer. Every episode ends with Tomas hurriedly unplugging his sewer and electric, and peeling rubber, leaving another irate babe standing with her tribe, holding baseball bats. This is liken to The Rockford Files.

“Hey! Come back here! You didn’t fix me. You said you can fix me. Now I’m more fucked up than ever.”

Toby Getrich is constantly having a biker gang kidnap him. But, his billionaire father never pays the full ransom. Instead, Enabler, Gooby Getrich, rents a Bohemian Hot Spot on the Coast, and tells his son;

“I rented the Tiki God Shack. Why don’t you take your loser friends there – and get good and fucked up. It’s on me!”

Rena reminded me of Jaqueline Bisset, who I had a crush on. Rena had a much better body. It was ‘The Death’. I think Jeff would love to play Gooby Getrich. Snyder is going to be taken on the Joy Ride of his life! How can he refuse!

This would make a great Reality Show, shot down in Santa Monica during the summer. Tourism will soar. Spotting (the fake) Thomas Pynchon, will be part of the show.

“Hey, look! Isn’t that Thomas Pynchon?”

“Who the fucks Pynchon?”

Check out the cursing trailer salesman. I want him to play Snyder – the Krazy out of Kontrol Kraut!

Jon Presco

Copyright 2018

Arthur Franz as Psychiatrist

The Book You Have to Read:
“The Sweet Ride,” by William Murray

 Cast  Michael Sarrazin (Denny McGuire), Jacqueline Bisset (Vickie Cartwright), Anthony Franciosa (Collie Ransom), Bob Denver (Choo-Choo Burns), Michele Carey (Thumper Stevens), Michael Wilding (Bill Cartwright)

(Editor’s note: This is the 150th installment in The Rap Sheet’s continuing series about great but forgotten books.)

By Steven Nester
William Murray’s The Sweet Ride (1967) is a demur unbosoming of red-hot youth living on the mean streets of Malibu, California, and the seedy fringes of Hollywood. It might flirt with being a lurid exposé, yet it never actually leaps that line, because The Sweet Ride wasn’t written for the peer group it depicts—surfer dudes, struggling hep-cat musicians, and actors; nor was its target the wistful closet-rebel children of the silent majority who aspired to walk among them. The Sweet Ride is more in line with the tastes of the little old lady from Pasadena who has been searching for titillation without having to, you know, get naked. Murray, a veteran writer for The New Yorker, knows his audience and how to keep the subject matter safe yet tantalizing. This, however, doesn’t enervate the book’s intermittent grit, its jabs of realism, and its superior prose.

The narrator is Collie Ransom, a 35-year old tennis coach and hustler whose prowess in the beds of his students’ mothers is as robust as his scoring on the court. Well-meaning and honest to a point, Collie has little direction, and he could’ve been the man Holden Caulfield grew up to become if J.D. Salinger’s character had followed his big brother to Hollywood in The Catcher in the Rye. Along with Mousie Goodman, a porn actress; Choo Choo Smith, a jazz pianist; and Denny Maguire, the squeaky-clean surfer, Collie shares a house in Malibu, a place where it “sings of sin and surf and sand.” The serpent in this paradise is unwittingly introduced by Victoria “Vickie” Crawford, a beautiful young actress who falls for Denny, and he for her.

Denny is what you’d call a real sweetheart. A champion surfer and self-effacing, he’s “guileless … all there, on the surface of life,” as Collie observes. Vickie is seduced by his “innocence,” but an abortion, an evil stepmother, and her daddy’s wealth and social position boil beneath the surface and give her a depth and complexity Denny can scarcely fathom. When Vickie focuses on her route to stardom in the dirty and shallow business of Hollywood, she begins to see less of Denny, and he has difficulty coming to terms with that change.

Because Denny has worked as an extra in beach movies, Vickie attempts to take their relationship to another level by arranging for him to act in an episode in her new television series. Once inside the studio gates, though, he rails against the hypocrisy of the system while in the company of Brady Caswell, Vickie’s boss, lover—and tormentor. Denny and Vickie break up, and when she is subsequently discovered dumped on the Pacific Coast Highway—having been raped and beaten—Denny takes deadly action against the Tinseltown hyenas who’ve torn apart this couple’s puppy love.

The near-murder of Vickie occurs at the beginning of The Sweet Ride and gives author Murray the opportunity to stoke and tease readers’ anticipation by leading them, detail upon detail, through the events that resulted in that tragedy. Enhancing the narration are Murray’s soliloquies, and he shines during the several brief passages of interior monologue that run through Collie’s head as the tennis coach processes his thoughts on the various occurrences around him.

A perusal of Murray’s curriculum vitae reveals that besides earning his daily bread on the staff of The New Yorker (he wrote the “Letter from Italy” column for many years), his output was prodigious and diverse. He penned nine entries in a mystery-fiction series starring professional magician and racetrack enthusiast Shifty Lou Anderson (beginning with 1984’s Tip on a Dead Crab), as well as books on horse racing and another on opera (he aspired early on to become an opera singer himself). Murray also wrote a memoir titled Janet, My Mother, and Me (2000), which details his mother’s love affair with prolific New Yorker writer Janet Flanner.

Of this author’s writing style, it might be said that while you can take the boy out of The New Yorker, you can’t take The New Yorker out of the boy. At times the dialogue (“We’re cool, always cool, man”) and descriptions (“appurtenances of femininity”) sound as if William Shawn, that magazine’s stodgy but exacting editor, was breathing down Murray’s neck as he typed. The ending of the novel skirts any irony of reality, and Murray seems not to trust the voice and insight of Collie as narrator to bring this tale to a proper conclusion. Instead, a Greek chorus of voices (Vickie’s stepmother, Choo Choo, et. al.) take turns delivering their closing statements about the events at hand, which draws the drama away from those who were actually involved in it.

(Left) Jacqueline Bisset and Michael Sarrazin in the 1968 film version.

Murray might’ve been slumming in writing a book that capitalized on the youth movement, but his plotting is like clockwork, and the book provides an excellent example of how to let the cat out of the bag at the beginning, then backtrack to develop plot and characterization that show how and why things turned out as they did. Readers who can’t stomach or believe how genteel and formal prose can capture Southern California on the down-low in the late 1960s, can always turn instead to the 1968 movie adaptation of this story, starring Jacqueline Bisset as Vickie, Michael Sarrazin as Denny, and Tony Franciosa (not yet familiar for his role on The Name of the Game) as Collie. What’s worth the price of admission here is Bob Denver, of Gilligan’s Island fame, moving and grooving as the hipster musician Choo Choo.

The Sweet Ride is a Model T sheathed in the body of a Corvette. It might not be very fast, but it’s dependable.

jeff PasternakIn 1966 Jeff Pasternak, songwriter, artist and son of legendary film producer Joe Pasternak, was strongly advised by his father not to get involved in Show Business. However, after meeting Elvis Presley on an MGM soundstage Jeff quickly forgot that advice. Months later, out for a good time at the London Fog on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, Jeff and a friend found their way to a sleazy backstreet bar and Jeff’s life changed forever.

The club was almost deserted as they waited for the new band they’d come to hear. Then, around 9:00 pm Jim Morrison and The Doors strolled onto the tiny dance floor. Jeff was captivated and mesmerized. He recalls that surreal night as one of The Doors very best performances. “I knew after I left the club that night that this was the style of music I wanted to write, and the singer I wanted to sound like.”

Shortly after that evening Joe Pasternak approached Jeff, asking, “What rock and roll band would you recommend for my new movie, The Sweet Ride?” Jeff immediately told him about The Doors, whom Jeff had been following to about every gig they had around L.A. By then, Jeff says, “Their music and energy had saturated every part of my being.”

In a few more weeks Jeff had convinced his friend, John Branca (to later become one of the world’s top music attorneys) to experience The Doors. Two months later, Jeff and John had their own band, The Mustard Greens. “I was on top of the world,” Jeff says, “co-writing original material with John and waiting for my dad to sign The Doors. Who could ask for anything more?” Unfortunately for both the film’s success and music history, Joe Pasternak chose to sign Moby Grape, because they wanted $5,000 less. Shortly thereafter Light My Fire soared up the charts, racking up sales and fans. That’s Show Biz

Then Jeff’s rebel ways at home resulted in a one-way ticket to the sidewalks of Hollywood. “I’ll never forget the family chauffeur bidding good-bye to me and my stereo on a side street one block from The Whiskey a Go Go. A few nights later inside The Whiskey, Jim Morrison was screaming at his parents on stage, and the song, The End, had me questioning my own destiny,” Jeff recalls.

By late 1967 The Mustard Greens found themselves playing right down the street from The Doors at Gazzari’s on the Strip. Then came the Battle of the Bands and the Teenage Fair. “Hundreds of bands entered the contest and thousands of screaming teens cheered us on to second place in a very close race. At least we performed all original material,” Jeff says.

At the end of 1968 music producer Brian Ross discovered The Mustard Greens and quickly put the band into the recording studio. Their first single on Original Sound Records hit the charts at #78 with double bullets. Dick Clark’s American Bandstand‘s national TV audience gave “Cotton Soul” the highest ever rating. By now John and Jeff had changed the group’s name to Mad Andy’s Twist Combo, which didn’t last long. Brian suggested Pasternak’s Progress and that’s what appeared on the record company’s Sunset Boulevard neon sign.

“Just when I was feeling down because we weren’t gigging enough, John came yelling into my room, shouting ‘I got us a gig at The Hullabaloo and guess who we’re opening for? The Doors!‘ That night was a fairy tale came true! If opening for The Doors wasn’t enough, we also played that night with Alice Cooper and Big Brother and the Holding Company.

A month later their second single was released and looked good on Billboard, but not good enough. Art Leboe, famous West Coast disc jockey and owner of Original Sound Records, decided not to renew their contract. His reason? He didn’t need another group that sounded like The Doors. Jeff says, “John and I were shocked and tried to modify our sound and style, but it was too late. As a last attempt to re-sign with another label, I came up with a whole new approach by painting my face with white make-up and wearing a purple velvet puppet costume.” Not surprisingly, the band broke up within a few months. Even Jeff in full regalia holding up traffic to dance across Sunset Boulevard didn’t get the attention of a music executive. John went back to school, leaving Jeff a solo writer.

It was a rough passage. When Bill Malone, aka William Malone, decided to open a folk club in the basement of the original Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard and Gardner in Hollywood, he invited Jeff to help him. The previous disgruntled tenant had trashed the small theater. When they finished their renovations it became Arty Fatbuckle’s. During this new era Jeff drew inspiration for continuing his struggling solo act from Poco, Hamilton Camp, Judee Sill and Paul Potash among others.

1969 found Jeff moving to England to join his old brother, Mike, in his London flat. Mike, known internationally as Emperor Rosko, had become famous as a disc jockey in Europe and Great Britain. Jeff threw himself into the British music scene and eventually he, Darryl Read, Chris Gibbons, Ian McDonald and Lou Martin formed a band they called Krayon Angels. “I picked the name in honor of a Judee Sill song,” Jeff says. “Our first gig was at The Revolution, a small, hip club in London. We weren’t very good, but we were loud, so loud that we nearly brought down the crystal chandelier.”

The band got better with experience and Lee Hallyday, a noted record producer, recommended to Rosko that Chris Gibbons and Jeff should sign as a writing team. Now calling themselves Bastado Jones, Jeff and Chris said a sad farewell to the rest of the band. The chance to record with Mick Jones, Gary Wright and musicians from the London Philharmonic Orchestra was far too tempting to turn down. With arrangements by Bill Shepard, the all-too-familiar Bee Gee sound was interesting but lacked the luster and drive that Jeff and Chris had counted on. In the end the album wasn’t completed due to poor management and very bad luck.

Jeff and Chris formed another group, this one called Smooth Loser, in 1971. Jeff recalls, “We were so disappointed at this point that we thought the name evoked a mad kind of humor.” They teamed up with Daniel Adler, a lead guitarist from America. With more material, Smooth Loser invited Paul Huggette, Malcolm Mortimore (Gentle Giant) and Tony Lester to join in the Emperor Rosko Tour around England.

By 1972 the British authorities weren’t overly keen on letting Jeff staying and pulled the Welcome mat out from under his feet. Jeff returned to Hollywood, hoping to discover yet another group. He signed as a writer with Cherry Lane Publishing. “As a writer for other artists I was impatient and frustrated, and not willing to follow the mainstream advice of Milt Okun, owner of Cherry Lane,” Jeff says. “I felt I could do better on my own. I eventually submitted a song to Frank Sinatra’s publishing company, which they said they loved. For a year I heard ‘the song’s incredibly good…’, ‘really getting close now…’, ‘Frank likes your lyrics very much…’. By now I could hear Old Blue Eyes signing my song on the radio while I expected contracts to arrive any day. I felt I was finally on my way as his LP neared release. The day before The Trilogy LP appeared in stores a Sinatra executive called me to say, ‘Jeff, regretfully your song was edged out by another one with similar content.’ Torn apart by disappointment, I wrote the song Hollywood Survivor, my answer to coming to grips with the reality of the music business.”

In the early 1980’s Jeff met his wife Shannon, a veteran of the record industry, who has given a great deal to the music world in her own right. “Shannon has been my best critic, editor, co-writer and friend, giving me more support than I could ever have hoped for,” says Jeff.

Currently THE HOLLYWOOD SURVIVOR musical is being written for film with eighteen songs by Jeff Pasternak. Some of the songs are available now on Jeff’s CDs: The Hollywood Survivor, Bandits of the Soul and Double Cover. And if you’re wondering what happened to Bastado Jones, stay tuned, ’cause it’s not over ’til the fat lady sings one of their songs. Pasternak and Gibbons shall prevail!!

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to Return of The Sweet Ride

  1. Reblogged this on Rosamond Press and commented:

    Joe Pasternak was a Jew who got out of Nazi Germany when the getting was good. He helped other Jews associated with Germanies movie industry, get out, and tried to find jobs for all those writers. His son, Jeff, had a crush on Marilyn. After we broke up, he took her to France. When Joe saw the beach scene in Santa Monica, he was blown away. From the get, Marilyn wanted me in her movie. I wanted her to be my muse and help me become a famous artist. Every Saturday we took the bus to the pier, and waited for the Giant Matt stand to open. We rented two, and spent hours taking long rides on the waves to shore. It was our bliss.

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